sun 23/06/2024

CD: Beth Orton - Sugaring Season | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Beth Orton - Sugaring Season

CD: Beth Orton - Sugaring Season

Doyenne of Nineties folktronica calls forth sweetness from sap

Beth Orton: questioning, poetry and prettiness

Sugaring season refers to the time of year when maple trees are "tapped", gallons of sap collected and boiled down to make the sweet syrup that goes so well with pancakes. The words trip off the tongue; conjure images of homeliness and those early autumnal sunsets that are by far the prettiest.

As titles go it would have been hard to find one more apt for Beth Orton's first release since 2006's Comfort of Strangers; packed itself with pretty moments and the comforts of home.

But before the sugar comes that sap, and the Norfolk-born songwriter's six years away have been as tumultuous. Single motherhood, new marriage and Orton's struggle to re-establish herself as a songwriter after being dropped by her label are all topics she has spoken at length about in interviews and they make themselves felt as influences on the album. The mood of the recording itself could almost be seen as chronological: opening as it does with the distressed harmonics and questioning lyrics of "Magpie" ("It's a hard, hard fight and I'm turning this one in") and ending, with "Mystery", on a song as ghostly beautiful as "Central Reservation", the late Nineties track for which she is still probably best remembered.

And in between: questioning, poetry and yes, prettiness. Orton's husky, intimate voice still speaks of secrets and the twilight hours - and is probably still an acquired taste to some – but the "folktronica" influences of her BRIT-winning years are long behind her. This is mature, accomplished songwriting; beautifully orchestrated. Just listen to those gorgeous, warm strings on "Candles" or the jazzy percussion that underpins the Sunday afternoon haze of "Something More Beautiful".

Lyrically, Orton remains as opaque as ever – only "See Through Blue", a jaunty lullaby to her daughter, properly hints at its origins while others hint at anger and contentment through snippets of lyrics, expressive vocals and melodic mood. It means the songs often lack immediacy, but this is an album that will happily give up a few more of its secrets with every listen.

Watch the video for "Magpie"

Orton's husky, intimate voice still speaks of secrets and the twilight hours


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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